BRIDGEPORT — Those who traverse the winding pathways leading to the summit of Henry C. Palmisano Park — aka "Mount Bridgeport" — are rewarded with one of the city’s most unique panoramic views.
Look north, and you’ll see Chicago's remarkable skyline and traffic along the Stevenson Expressway. Look west, and you’ll see the Stearns Quarry now stocked with fish. And surrounding the park at 2700 S. Halsted St. is Bridgeport, in all its residential and industrial glory.
“What brought me [to the park] in the first place is that there is a number of different experiences you can have,” said Sam Mattone, 33, a Bridgeport resident and volunteer park steward.
Next week, the park will play host to a brand-new experience, a first-of-its kind family event cheekily titled the “Bridgeport Air and Water Show." The free event takes place from 5-10 p.m. Aug. 17.
The lineup includes kite assembly and flying lessons, fishing instruction from the anglers at Henry's Sports and Bait Shop, park tours led by Mattone and guided evening stargazing sessions led by astronomers from the Adler Planetarium.
A few food trucks will be at the park, along with treats and drinks served by Jackalope Coffee and Tea House.
Maureen Sullivan, the president of the park’s advisory council and a tireless volunteer for local causes who organized the event, helped rally dozens of volunteers to help clean up trash, remove graffiti and help throughout the evening.
“My main goal when I stared the [advisory] council was to get foot traffic in the park. This will do it, at least for a day,” she said. “This is an economically diverse neighborhood and we don’t get a chance to bring people together. You’ve got to at least see each other.”
Henry C. Palmisano Park opened in 2009 as Stearns Quarry Park after an extensive renovation effort. The Chicago Park District converted the former “clean construction” landfill — which was once a giant quarry — into a 27-acre public space, complete with native plant life and prairie wetlands.
The park was largely built using construction debris — there are recycled timber boardwalks, concrete walkways, a crushed stone running path. Some of the larger stones along the walkways are construction waste from the ill-fated Block 37 project Downtown.
A portion of the quarry walls remain in the park’s northwest corner. That area has been transformed into a fishing pond.
“Part of the reason to have these natural habitats is to bring in wildlife and biodiversity to the area, which is good for the ecosystem,” Mattone said.